Where the Wild Things Grow
Rustic Neapolitan sit-down true to its name
The wood-fired Neapolitan pies maintain a devoted fandom, partly owing to chef Todd Winer’s homemade cheeses, as well as toppings like fennel sausage, burnt fennel, and Ipswich clams. The chic, industrial-farmhouse decor, friendly vibe, and European wine list mean you can have your date night and eat pizza, too.
Runner-up: Babbo Pizzeria
Dual-concept restaurant catering to both high-end and casual diners
You’d be forgiven for being confused. Wander into one side of this Fenway spot and you’ll think you’ve stumbled upon a swanky, yesteryear Miami Beach lounge. Pardon me, but where the hell is the pizza? But Tapestry is a twofer: higher-end restaurant and lounge on one side, casual pizza joint and bar games hang on the other. So scoot to the Expo Kitchen half for massive, piping hot Neapolitan pies topped with the likes of creamed shishito peppers, roasted mushrooms, and spicy greens.
Industrial-designed hipster enclave with outdoor seating
Charlestown had been so hungry for a decent new restaurant that Brewer’s Fork could have served deep-fried cobblestones and been a hit. Luckily, the gastropub, which first opened in 2015, aimed much higher, nowhere more visibly than with its pizza menu. The thin, chewy-yet-crispy crusts serve as base to wonderful topping combos like chopped pork and applesauce, and bacon and potatoes.
No-frills pizza lunch counter with BBQ options
This is when you forego both niceties and toppings and silently snarf the best cheese pizza in town. The gas and toll money is more than worth spending to reach this centenarian mainstay, which started as an Eastie bakery in 1903 and serves barbecued lamb and steak skewers in addition to the pizza. Bonus points go to the inimitable people-watching. Just remember: cash only.
Runner-up: Hands down winner
Airy, spacious Italian spot great for large parties
Authentic Neapolitan pies are few and far between, which makes these flash-baked beauts all the more desirable. Imported pizzeria flour and Italian tomatoes combined with locally sourced toppings and house-made mozzarella make for a grand meal, indeed. Oh, and we have a tailgating tip for you: book their mobile wood-burning oven for your next Sunday spread, and you’ll forever be a hero to your friends and family.
Runner-up: Pepe Bocca
Sleek but unpretentious spot focused on wood-fired comfort fare
Lineage closed, and we mourned the loss of that wonderful oven, but then Prairie Fire took its place and fired it up again, this time focused on crispy, slightly charred pies. Toppings are straightforward rather than fanciful; think fennel sausage, charred greens, mushrooms, and white anchovies. For late nights when you crave a wood-fired slice, the pizza menu is available until 11 during the week and until midnight on weekends.
Runner-up: Oath Craft
Reasonably priced, huge space with appropriately huge toppings
Man, do people love these wood-fired pizzas. Like, love love. It might be their leopard-print crusts, or the generosity of the toppings (those pepperonis are huge). But most likely it owes to chef Nick Dixon’s unusual expertise -- he consulted with a “pizza guru,” splurged on a gourmet oven, and tested numerous flours before developing his own dough recipe.
Casual sit-down dominated by its coal-fired oven
A century ago, most NYC pies were coal-fired. Max and Leo’s has helped revive the technique, which results in pizzas that cook in just two or three minutes, charring the outside of the crust but keeping the dough moist and chewy inside. Build your own pie or opt for an artisan pizza like the Blue Ribbon (BBQ glaze, pulled pork, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and smoked gouda, topped with BBQ sauce). There’s also a second outpost inside Game on Fenway, but we like the original haunt for its friendly and authentic vibe.
Runner-up: Newton Corner House of Pizza
Obsessively crafted pies in and industrial-chic restaurant and cafe
There’s a reason Obama stopped by when he last visited the city. The pizzas here are treated like royalty: the dough fermented for more than 30 hours, the mozzarella hand-pulled, the pies positioned in the wood-fire oven just so in order to guarantee a buoyant, charred crust. You’ll swear allegiance to the sausage and banana pepper pie before tasting the clam and bacon varietal and landing on a new favorite. Luckily the restaurant offers both small and large pies to allow for more taste-testing.
Hole-in-the-wall with rabid, hungry cult following
The pizza's only there until the dough runs out (usually by 2pm), so best to get there before noon. Decisions are easy: You're getting two slices of Sicilian deliciousness, and maybe some arancini if you really feel like getting after it. It was named one of the best in the country by leading authorities for a reason.
Runner-up: Regina Pizzeria
Small, corner pizzeria with a welcoming, nerdy vibe
The dudes behind Inman’s All Star Sandwich Bar have cemented their MVP status. Want tomatillo salsa and chorizo on your pizza? There’s a pie for that (the Chile Relleno). Shaved steak and horseradish cream? There’s a pie for that too (the Red Head). Slaying a monstrous hangover? One for that, too -- a breakfast pizza made with hominy-ricotta grits, maple breakfast sausage, soft-baked eggs, cheese, and pickled chiles (its name: the Dukes of Hazzard). All Star's vegan and vegetarian options also come highly recommended, and the guys behind the counter are Star Wars nerds, to boot.
Runner-up: Pizza Pie-er
Family-friendly, informal, and also serves homemade ice cream
Before you whine "my crust is charred!" -- it’s on purpose, and it’s fabulous. The wood-fired gourmet pies come out incredibly hot (what’s the heat index level above "piping"?) and include chichi toppings like short rib and Gruyère cheese. Since there will be approximately no leftovers, depart with a pint of the equally revered homemade ice cream.
Swanky, special-occasion spot with great seafood
Quality pizza in Harvard Square was a surprisingly tall order... until Waypoint came along. How can it be that a chichi seafood restaurant has the area’s best pizza? We don’t ask questions; we just eat. Every topping combo is a revelation. (French onion, braised lamb, apples, and Comte cheese? Totally works.) But you’re here for the smoked whitefish pie, one of the most celebrated dishes in the city. It’s a bagel sandwich translated to pizza form: whitefish, mascarpone, dill, and capers with a seeded crust.
Runner-up: Cambridge, 1.
Bare-bones, NYC-style pizzeria with a family legacy
Transplanted New Yorkers missing the mothership, this is where to head. It’s a classic, old-school, family-owned Sicilian joint, complete with Formica booths, tossed pizza dough, and Fanta in the fridge. The blunt counter service doesn’t hurt either.
Runner-up: No competition
Flashy hotel dining room worth the money
So, you need to make a first-date impression but, you're seriously jonesing for some pizza. Or your parents are in town to foot the dinner bill, but you’re seriously jonesing for some pizza. Or you have 27 bucks burning a hole in your pocket, and you want to blow it all on some pizza. The solution to all that ails: Scampo’s lobster pizza. Lydia Shire’s signature dish is set at max decadence, with heavy cream, caramelized shallots, and the meat of a 2-pound lobster.
The award-winning pizza equivalent of a late-night greasy spoon
After you’ve gotten completely sauced at the bars, head for a sauce-and-cheese palliative at this late-night go-to. The booze-absorbing slices drip with flavor, grease, and next-morning regret. Order extra sauce on the side for dipping.
Runner-up: The Real Deal
A graffiti-walled enclave that appreciates fine meats
With a name like The Salty Pig, you know that meat toppings are the order of the day: prosciutto, 'Nduja sausage, and all other manner of salty, mouthwatering charcuteries. But seasonal veggies are given equal attention, and the dough itself is a labor of love, the recipe often tweaked to maximize the crust’s balance of char and bounce.
Runner-up: Dirty Water Dough
Wherever it may roam
Lauded food truck with new brick-and-mortar outlet
If you were wondering whatever happened to Letters to Cleo bassist Scott Riebling, we’ve got news for you: He turned a lifetime pizza obsession into a right-turn career change and launched his own food truck. Stoked’s individual pies quickly became the stuff of takeaway legend, a tri-hybrid of New York-, New Haven-, and Neapolitan-style, coal-cooked for three minutes in a 6,000-pound oven. Meat eaters might go to the veggie dark side after sampling the Buffalo Brussels sprout varietal; vegan substitutions also abound. Although there’s now a brick-and-mortar version of the truck, we’ll stick with the original four-wheeler.
Runner-up: Sweet Tomatoes